First West Virginia inmate tests positive for virus

FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a press conference at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is warning of disastrous consequences if coronavirus cases spike as he sets up the most aggressive phase of his reopening plan around Memorial Day weekend. The Republican governor on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 said the state must continue lifting restrictions on businesses but offered grim predictions if state saw a second wave of virus cases.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia prison system had its first inmate test positive for the coronavirus, Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday.

The 62-year-old Huttonsville Correctional Center inmate's case was announced a day after a guard at the facility tested positive, though Justice said the cases are not believed to be connected.

The governor said officials will test all inmates and staff in the area where the prisoner was housed. If additional infections are found, testing will be expanded to all inmates the facility.

“We knew it was probably coming and when it came, we're trying to run to the fire and make sure we put it out, and put it out as quickly as possible,” he said.

Corrections officials on Monday said a guard at Huttonsville tested positive and has been quarantining at home. Inmates of a 44-bed unit where the guard worked have been quarantined because he had supervised three of the prisoners.

Brian Abraham, Justice's general counsel, said the two cases aren't linked because “the local health officials believe they have identified person zero in that case” and it was not the guard.

Federal prisons in West Virginia have also reported virus cases.

At least five inmates have tested positive at FCI Gilmer in Glenville after the federal Bureau of Prisons transferred 124 inmates to the lockup in a bid to ease overcrowding at the agencies other prisons.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin has said Attorney General William Barr has assured him that no additional inmates will be relocated to Gilmer or the federal prison at Hazelton.

A staffer at the federal prison in McDowell County has also tested positive for the coronavirus, according to federal data.

Statewide, at least 68 people have died from the virus and around 1,500 have tested positive, health officials said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptom. But for others, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including life-threatening pneumonia.


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